Bad dog movies

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The crazy mutt in 'Marley and Me' got Time Out thinking about some other bad dog movies...

‘A Cry in the Dark’ (1988)

‘The dingo’s got my baby!’ The saga surrounding the mysterious vanishing of Aussie nipper Azaria Chamberlain proves an unmissable excuse for Meryl Streep to dust off her best Ocker twang and fusty dressing-up box of actorly tics for the role of the missing child’s mother. Whether the dingo in question has actually done anything malicious in simply obeying its natural imperatives is a moot point, but the scabby mongrel raises one hell of a stink as a media circus envelopes Streep and hubby Sam Neill and the baby’s disappearance becomes a national scandal.

‘The Thing’ (1982)

Own up. How many of you have ever wanted to rub your cheek on the thick coat of a friendly mountain husky? The truth is, we all have, and it’s a fact that makes an early scene in John Carpenter’s throbbing '80s refit of Howard Hawks’s ‘The Thing from Another Planet’ all the more disturbing. With Kurt Russell and his all-male cadre of miscellaneous arctic researchers (woof!) under threat from a shapeshifting alien being that hides inside living beings (woof woof!), it’s unfortunate that the first casualty on a list of many happens to be a cute husky out back. One minute the little scamp is noshing down happily on its Pedegree Chum, the next it’s got tentacles growing out of its face and is coughing up gobbets of green, flesh-corroding muck over his soon-to-be-road-gritting husky brethren.

‘Cujo’ (1983)

The Big Poppa of problematic pooches has to be Stephen King’s all-bitin’, all-droolin’ animal antihero, the rabid and ravenous Cujo. Starting the movie as a lolloping family St Bernard (this is America), a bat bite soon sets Cujo on a one-way ride to the crackpot kennel. Through the revolutionary cinematic technique of Rabies-o-Vision, director Lewis Teague allows us into the mind of this confused canine: the lights are too bright, the noises too loud and the neighbours too darn succulent. By the time ET’s mum and her adorable towheaded offspring show up in their battered Ford Pinto, our puppy protagonist has morphed into a snarling, spit-jowled juggernaut of blind hate, more than willing to stalk mother and son through three gruelling days of terror before meeting a merciful death at the business end of a Louisville Slugger.

‘Amores perros’ (2000)

Still Alejandro González Iñárritu’s finest three hours, this intertwined triumvirate of tall tales set in and around Mexico City contains not one, but three bad dogs for your buck. First up, you’ve got Gael García Bernal and a hulking mutt called Cofi who, it turns out, is something of a dab hand in the illicit, underground, back alley, proper naughty world of dog fighting. Then there’s Goya Toledo as Valeria, the Permatanned daytime TV dolly who loses her leg in a car accident, buys a cute little dog to keep her company, only for the little bastard to get trapped underneath the floorboards. Finally you’ve got transient assassin (or ‘trassassin’) El Chivo (Emilio Echevarría) who wanders around the street with a shopping cart flanked by a flea-bitten army of mangy strays.

‘Fetch!’ (1985)

Loosely based on ‘Dog at Wrigley Field’ – a talking point at the 1983 Duluth Festival of Stock Footage and Veterinary Films – first-time director Hamilton 'Ham' Porter curried little critical or commercial good will with this film about a devoted and obedient family dog who, for no plausible reason, turns on and kills 17 nightshift workers at a local dubbin plant. Refitting the soiled unisex changing rooms of a recently abandoned Old Testament-themed waterpark in Charlston, South Carolina to stand-in for a leafy New England suburb circa 2034, Porter managed to make his film – from casting down to final cut – for a cool $2,700. He cast his own German Shepherd, Pottsy, in the role of Patrick the dog, while Welsh RADA dropout Camron Bristol stars as his liquored-up tobacco magnate owner, Winston Squires Jnr.

‘Monster Dog’ (1984)

Restaurateur, pro-celeb golfer and gurning shock-rock godhead Alice Cooper took time out to star in this grubby little Spanish-made howler from Italian splatter-auteur Claudio Fragasso (aka Clyde Anderson; aka Drago Floyd). The canine in question is dog in name only and monstrous purely for the special effects that enshroud it, and its diabolical purpose is simply to link together a woeful crop of Cooper pop promos. Whether Alice himself is the Monster Dog or if it is just some foul, depraved creature of the night is never made wholly apparent, but it nevertheless kills everyone in town and is, on any level you care to choose, a very, very bad dog indeed.

‘Stand by Me’ (1986)

Sick balls! Junkyard dogs seem to be a ubiquitous commodity in the land across the pond – they’ve inspired a song (‘Bad, Bad Leroy Brown’), a WWF wrestler, and the legend of Chopper. The four-legged phantom, who haunts the nightmares of serial dog-mistruster Stephen King’s semi-fictional pre-pubescent chums, was rumoured to have been trained by his fatass junkman owner, who never stormed the beach at Normandy, to attack the different organs of a child’s body on command. But, this being a rites-of-passage movie concerned with the end of childhood innocence, it’s inevitable that the feared Chopper will turn out to be a scruffy layabout whose bark is infinitely worse than his bite.

‘Cold Dog Soup’ (1990)

‘Ghost Dog’, ‘The Shaggy DA’, ‘Teen Wolf Too’: man’s best friend has long lent himself to cinematic navel-gazing, but nowhere is this wet-nosed one-two given more room to dance its gloomy tarantella than in this superb indie think-piece from the director of ‘The Winds of Whoopie’ and ‘Billboard Dad’. Frank Whaley finds himself lumbered with the curiously difficult task of disposing of his new girlfriend’s recently deceased pooch, Jasper. So begins a long, strange, impossibly quirky odyssey that takes in some airbrushed voodoo hokum, timorous street gangs and immoral fast-food operatives as the dog’s final resting place consumes Whaley’s life.

‘Zoltan, Hound of Dracula’ (1978)

When Russian soldiers go digging in the murky recesses of an ancient Transylvanian castle, you just know they’re going to unearth some ageless evil. Luckily for all concerned, it’s just Zoltan, the least worrying agent of darkness ever to walk the earth. Retitled ‘Dracula’s Dog’ for American audiences put off by names that sound all foreign and artsy, ‘Zoltan’ is one of the sunniest horror movies ever made: a sort of ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ if the Griswolds were being stalked by a hellhound (and Clark turned out to be Dracula’s heir), essentially a montage of camper vans speeding along sunlit back-country roads to the tune of warbling late ’70s synths. Except, that is, for a scene roughly halfway in which the production team suddenly pull their fingers out and deliver a dog-attack scene of such overwhelming ferocity and hair-raising realism that we suddenly seem to have wandered into Satan’s own snuff collection.

Author: Adam Lee Davies, David Jenkins, Tom Huddleston



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